Rapid cancer diagnosis service wins prestigious award

Published on: 7 June 2021

The Rapid Diagnostic Centre (RDC) at Guy’s Hospital has won ‘Integrated Care Partnership of the Year’ at the 2021 HSJ Awards.

The RDC helps patients who have vague or unexplained symptoms get an early or earlier diagnosis of cancer and other serious conditions.

GPs and hospital doctors can refer patients with symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, or unexplained pains for a range of tests. Whilst less common than traditional symptoms, they can be signs of cancer. If these are missed it often leads to a delay in diagnosis which can mean patients have less chance of recovery.

Before the introduction of the RDC, which serves people from across the six boroughs of south east London, patients could be referred to numerous specialists before reaching a diagnosis.

Hosted by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust for the South East London Cancer Alliance and the Our Healthier South East London Integrated Care System, the RDC has seen more than 3,500 patients since December 2016. Recent analysis found that 8% of patients are diagnosed with a cancer, with an average time to diagnosis of 21 days. Forty percent of these cancers are diagnosed at the earlier stages 1 or 2, which can lead to better survival rates.

A further 36% of patients referred had a different, significant physical condition identified by the RDC. These include infectious disease, rheumatology disorders, respiratory and cardiology disorders, or age related disorders. Patients without a cancer diagnosis can be referred on to other hospital services in south east London.

Increasingly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, serious mental health conditions are being identified as the cause of physical symptoms. The wellbeing of all patients attending the Centre is checked through questionnaires provided on a tablet or via a link sent to a smart phone. Results are then added to the patient’s electronic record.

The service is the only example of full mental health integration at an RDC in England and is delivered in partnership with Integrating Mental & Physical healthcare: Research, Training & Services (IMPARTS) – a King’s Health Partners funded project.

In choosing the RDC as a winner, the HSJ Judges said:

“This winning project was an excellent example of integration. It was inclusive, multi-speciality, dynamic and the judges can see how from this strong foundation they can expand their responsiveness to the wider determinants of the health and build their network of organisations accordingly.”

Geraint Jones, Rapid Diagnostic Centre Lead for the South East London Cancer Alliance, said: “I’m delighted that the hard work and commitment of the whole team has been recognised by the HSJ Awards. All of us are motivated each day by the desire to help patients fully understand their health and make the right decisions on potential treatments, whether the diagnosis is cancer or not.

“This is a group of patients who traditionally take longer to achieve a diagnosis and the rollout of RDCs is a real game changer in this regard. The RDC is especially important as we recover services from the COVID-19 pandemic. Reduced access to treatments or delaying appointments means a real risk of rising undiagnosed cases.

“My advice to anyone worried about symptoms is to contact their local surgery. Appointments may be a little different but the sooner we can see you, the sooner we can help you.”

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